Farmer says Britain ‘could face shortage’ of turkeys ahead of Christmas

National Christmas scarcity of birds will be caused by a lack of European labour to meet demand

A bronze turkey at a farm in Chelmsford, north-east of London. Reuters
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The UK could face a “national shortage” of turkeys in the weeks before Christmas, brought on by a post-Brexit labour shortage, a turkey farmer said.

Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association (TFTA), said that while small British farms that employ local workers have been less affected, supermarket stocks are likely to be hit by a shortage of European employees with industry skills.

The TFTA, which represents producers of high-end free range turkeys, said some poultry farms have had five times more orders this year than the same time in 2020.

Mrs Martin told the PA news agency: “This year it’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm.

“It is the supermarket shelves that will be emptier on turkeys this year than they have been before, only because there have been less turkeys placed on the ground, only because the big processors know that they will not get them processed.”

Asked whether supermarkets will run out of turkeys before Christmas, she said: “I think everyone needs to get their orders in very quickly.

“We have seen an absolutely unprecedented number of orders come in.

“Come Christmas, if you leave ordering your turkey from your local farm supplier, you are going to be out of luck.”

On whether Britain's departure from the EU was to blame, Mrs Martin said: “We’re small producers, we use local labour, but for the big processors it is 100 per cent caused by a labour shortage.

“This situation with turkeys is caused by the fact that European labour is no longer available to us, and they are skilled workers who have been coming to us for years.

“People are now missing a whole host of their workforce that they have been training and investing in over the last however many years, and those workers are no longer available for us to use on a seasonal basis – they will go find work on mainland Europe instead.”

Updated: September 26, 2021, 9:53 PM